Aaaaaand this is why Democrats wanted Michael Avenatti as far away from this fight as possible. “Mr. Avenatti has a tendency to sensationalize and make his various crusades more about himself than about getting at the truth,” a senior Senate Democratic aide told The Daily Beast at the start of this week. “This moment calls for the exact opposite.”

Prior to Avenatti’s contribution to the Brett Kavanaugh Sweepstakes, Senate Republicans stepped carefully when addressing allegations of sexual misconduct by the Supreme Court nominee during his years as a teen and young adult. Not any more, as Lindsey Graham makes clear in a statement responding to the affidavit filed by Avenatti. While Graham says that he still believes in “allowing people to be heard,” he also declares that he’s not going to “be a participant in wholesale character assassination that defies credibility.”

And Graham vehemently asserts that “I am not going to be played, and I’m not going to have my intelligence insulted by the Michael Avenattis of the world”:

And by “played,” Graham means this:

Those are points that Graham was likely to catch as well. There hasn’t been any independent verification on Sperry’s “Congressional sources,” but it’s not that difficult to read between the lines of the affidavit, either. If these allegations were true at all, there should already have been scores or hundreds of witnesses, and those should have emerged years ago — at the very least, during the high-profile three-year fight to get Kavanaugh confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals, if not in previous FBI background checks.

The danger here for Democrats is, ironically, the same hazard that they’ve tried to pin on Kavanaugh — guilt by association — in making this about “restorative justice” rather than specific evidence. Throwing in this allegation with its “outrageous, internally inconsistent” claims, along with the razor-sharp public hostility toward Trump that drives Avenatti, colors the perception of the other allegations too — if for no other reason to highlight that they’re not terribly internally consistent, either. It paints all of these allegations with a stench of partisan political activism that could have been avoided had Avenatti kept out of it.

With Avenatti poisoning the water, we might begin to see Senate Republicans taking off the gloves and demanding an end to this circus. If that trend begins to grow, Avenatti might end up helping to get Kavanaugh on the bench. That’s still an if, of course, and Graham’s not really the key vote to watch. Here’s Jeff Flake railing against the Senate for letting this process run off the rails and offering apologies to both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. Flake’s insisting that he needs tomorrow’s hearing to make up his mind, but this speech took place before Avenatti’s claims fully landed, too. His “a pox upon both houses” demeanor here might start shifting with this garishly political effort, and even Flake might say basta.